Hope set to continue as 'more aggressive' enforcer at No.4

Shai Hope drives towards the covers AFP/Getty Images

Since the end of the 2019 World Cup, Shai Hope has been the top run-getter in ODI cricket with 1931 runs at an average of 52.18. But he has had a strike rate of only 74.90 during this period - the lowest among batters from Full Member nations with at least 1000 runs.

However, in the lead-up to the 2023 ODI World Cup qualifier in Zimbabwe, Hope has slotted into a new role: an enforcer at No.4. The sample size is fairly small - Hope has batted only 11 times at No.4 in his ODI career and only twice this year - but in March he hit an unbeaten 128 off 115 balls, with seven sixes and five fours, to take down South Africa's spinners Tabraiz Shamsi and Bjorn Fortuin. On the eve of West Indies' first bilateral series against UAE, captain Hope suggested that he will continue to perform a similar role for West Indies at No.4.

"It's a ticklish one, but I'm happy to bat wherever the team needs [me to]," Hope said. "Going forward, I think No.4 would give us a bit more stability. In the past, we've had some tough time in the middle overs, especially against spin. But in this series, you may see a bit of a change; the batting line-up may be a bit different to what we're accustomed to. Yeah, I think No.4 is the position that I'll stay at for a period of time and hopefully that continues to work for West Indies."

Hope attributed his boundary-laden knock in East London to both situational awareness and improvement in his power game. He had also displayed signs of his power during his BPL stint with Khulna Tigers and PSL stint with Lahore Qalandars. He batted at No.3 or No.4 in those tournaments as well. Hope urges the rest of West Indies' batting line-up to play with similar freedom rather than just trying to protect their wickets.

"I think the way how cricket is being played now, you got to pretty much keep up with the times and find ways to adapt and improve our game," Hope said. "I'm trying to be a bit more aggressive in strokeplay and it's something I want to stem down to the team as well and want to focus on trying to find ways to score. I think in the past, we just tried to occupy the crease too much rather than executing our strengths because we're known for scoring and especially scoring boundaries."

Most of West Indies' senior players, including Nicholas Pooran, Jason Holder, Rovman Powell and Kyle Mayers, are on a break after the IPL, but Hope backed the youngsters and fringe players to step up and work up some momentum ahead of the World Cup qualifier, which is set to begin on June 18.

"[Want to] continue development and try to get some progression from here in the UAE," Hope said. "Just trying to see the fellas improve in whatever way we can. I know it's going to be a long and hard journey, but I just want to see some progression and that 1% improvement every single day."

Hope is enthused by the growth of Brandon King who has batted at the top as well as in the middle for West Indies in the recent past. King has been promoted to vice-captaincy for the UAE tour and could be among the contenders to become defending champions Jamaica Tallawahs' captain in CPL 2023.

"Firstly, I just love to see him bat - whether it's in the nets or whether it's in the middle," Hope said of King. "He's one of those guys who I can relate to as well as a batter and as a person. So, I'm just hoping he can continue in this stead. He's been improving a lot, especially in his mindset towards the game, towards batting, and towards scoring runs. I must commend him for that.

"His role is a lot more important now because he's now opening the batting for us, so he has his work cut out for him. I'm very sure he's capable of doing the job for us and hope he can continue in this way."